Pastor Bo: Grow your garden wisely

Vegetable garden / Getty Images

The Wagner vegetable garden has been a constantly evolving labor of love over many years. Even back as a pretty young kid, I was gardening, mostly things like tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers. Back then, my soil was a really fantastic mixture of dark dirt, horse manure and ashes from the fireplace. Honestly, that mixture produced some amazing tomatoes especially.

When Dana and I got married, I rented a tiller and put a little garden in the backyard of our rental house. Then a year or so later, when we bought our first tiny home way out in the country, I for some reason decided that I needed a tractor to prepare the ground. I spent a thousand dollars on a 1949 Allis-Chalmers tractor for our roughly 20-by-30 garden space. As you might imagine, that was not exactly a wise choice; a simple rototiller would have done the job cheaper, easier and not left my dear wife once again rolling her eyes in an unspoken "I told you so."

Eight years ago, we were finally able to buy a house big enough for our family. And once again, we turned our attention to gardening. We tilled a spot behind the house that first year and fenced it in with a tiny landscaping fence. That did not go so well; our grumpy dog, Riley, simply jumped the fence and wallowed all over the plants. The year after that, we did a small raised-bed garden in the same spot with higher fencing, and that worked pretty well. But the year after that, when we added an automatic watering system, it really took off.

So a few years later, we added a bigger spot in the side yard. We mostly did vines out there, things like watermelon and cantaloupes, though we also had some okra and peppers in that spot. And that turned out disastrous. Summertime is when I get the busiest, preaching multiple weeks of youth camp as well as revivals, family conferences and other meetings. And that meant that the weeds had ample opportunity to run wild, leaving me hours of hoeing and yanking when I got back just to try to tame the ugly jungle, let alone salvage any produce.

And that is what led to this year's sure-to-succeed foolproof garden plan (he typed with a wry smile). In that same larger side area, we have radically redesigned everything for maximum ease as well as attractiveness. I outlined a 24-by-24 spot with landscaping timbers, both fastening them together and staking them into the ground with rebar. We put plastic down inside of that and then put four loads of lovely river rock into that square to walk on. Then we put very nice planters all over it, with more to come, as well as an outdoor sink. We already have really nice lettuce growing in the planters; when that is about played out, we will put in our summertime plants.

(READ MORE: Brave new gardening for brave new climates)

All of this took a lot of time and effort up front, but we expect to have a year-round garden now with a minimum of effort, mostly just a few minutes of watering each day. But all of that raises a question: Why spend that amount of money and time, especially the time, on what can currently be purchased from the grocery store just 12 minutes away?

As a pastor/evangelist/ schoolteacher/author and more, there is rarely ever a week that I do not work more than 70 hours. And yet I gladly give this extra time to our garden, not because it saves us tons of money, though it ultimately does when compared to eating out, but because of all the intangibles that make life truly enjoyable. I like tomato sandwiches, especially when I can pull a fresh tomato right out of the garden to make it with. I like homegrown peppers on most everything. I adore crisp cucumbers in my salads and even my sandwiches. I also love being able to load up bags and baskets of produce and take them to church and give them away to the people I love and to anyone in need.

I also love the feeling of success that comes from putting seeds in a tiny pot, transplanting them to a garden and eventually seeing the results in the harvest. And there is a sense of peace and tranquility that one gets from gardening that is almost unmatched in anything else. Our garden is also currently growing lovely flowers in the same spot as the vegetables. And the friendly little honeybees seem to love all of it. Soon, we plan to put wind chimes and water features in that spot as well.

Psalm 90:10 says, "The days of our years are threescore years and 10 [seventy years]; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore [80] years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away." Verse 12 follows up on that with, "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." In other words, "teach us to recognize how fleeting life is and to wisely make the most of every moment."

It is pretty easy to waste a life. On one hand, we can give it to mostly meaningless things like television and social media and video games, throwing our brains into neutral and allowing our bodies to decay. On the other hand, we can burn it out with nothing but work and realize far too late that there were people and things that should have mattered more to us along the way.

We have tried our best, in the midst of way too much work, to major on God and family and home and friends. Like our garden, we have found that you enjoy the fruits of what you actively cultivate. We are very close with all of our children; we enjoy our walk with the Lord; we love coming home each night to our garden and our house and our yard; and we stay in touch with precious friends, though not as well as we should.

(READ MORE: Jesus is a friend for life)

I cannot imagine getting to the end of my life and realizing I did not grow a garden of vegetables, worship, family and friends.

Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at Email him at